BBC told kidnapped reporter is “safe and well”

The BBC's director-general has appealed for kidnappers holding foreign correspondent Alan Johnston in the Middle East to release him "immediately and unharmed".

Mark Thompson flew to Palestine this week to meet President Mahmoud Abbas, who told him Johnston, of Argyll, was "safe and well" and promised that Palestinian authorities were "fully engaged" in securing his release.

But Thompson said that, despite the assurances, he and Johnston's family were becoming "increasingly concerned" for the welfare of the journalist, who disappeared in Gaza on March 12.

Thompson told a news conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah that there was "no justification" for Johnston's abduction and the Palestinian people were "ill-served" by it.

Johnston's car was found abandoned exactly a month ago, shortly after he left his office in Gaza City to drive home, amid reports that he was snatched by masked gunmen. He has now been held longer than any other Western hostage in the lawless territory.

Thompson said: "I would appeal to the people holding Alan to release him immediately.

"We believe that Alan has demonstrated, over the last three years, his commitment to accurate reporting of the story of Gaza and its people and that, quite apart from the humanitarian issues of the enormous anxiety that Alan himself is going through and the enormous burden being placed on his family and friends, that it's absolutely in the interests of the people of Gaza and of Palestine as a whole that he should be released immediately and unharmed."

 

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